It looks like Australian art collectors are driving auction prices back to boom levels

Sir Arthur Streeton’s Sydney Harbour, 1907, sold for $2,074,000. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s Australia.

An auction of major Australian art by Sotheby’s in Sydney last night suggests investors are back in the local art market, with the 69 works on offer realising $8.96 million (inc. buyer’s premium) in clearance rates of 75.4% at 132% by value.

Top billing went to Sir Arthur Streeton’s signature work “Sydney Harbour, 1907”, which at $2,074,000, hit the top end of estimates and achieved the century-old impressionist’s second highest price at auction.

It set the tone for demand for Streeton, who will feature in a major exhibition at The National Gallery, London later this year, with “The Murray and The Mountain, 1930” selling for $915,000, more than 350% above its upper estimate of $200,000. “Melbourne from Afar, 1920” sold for $170,800, well above its $80,000-120,000 estimate.

Howard Arkley’s Mod Style, 1992, sold for $646,600, an auction record for the late artist. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s Australia.

Three other artists set new records with the late Melbourne painter Howard Arkley’s “Mod Style, 1992” smashing the $400,000-500,000 to realise $646,600, while the largest and most significant work by Aboriginal watercolour painter Albert Namatjira, “Finke River Mission and Mount Hermannsburg, 1951” realised $122,000 on a presale estimate of $80,000-100,000.

Arthur Boyd’s grandmother, Emma Minnie Boyd, also set a new auction record when “A Lassie Yet, 1888” sold for $170,800 on an estimate of $30,000-50,000.

Brett Whiteley’s “The Robin and The Moon, 1981” sold for $1,098,000 well above the high estimate of $800,000, while Charles Blackman’s “Tryst, 1959” sold for $402,600 on estimates of
$200,000-300,000. Albert Tucker’s “Explorer and Bird, 1968” achieved $597,800 on a top estimate of $350,000.

Sotheby’s Australia chairman Geoffrey Smith said many of the works were offered for auction for the first time.

He said the result “represents the continued strength of and confidence in the Australian art market”.

The latest results come two months after one of Australia’s most famous photographs, “Sunbaker” by Max Dupain, sold for $105,400, more than three times the estimate of $20,000-$30,000 – a new record for the artist.

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